Madras HC Quashes Defamation Cases Against Panneerselvam, Palaniswami
Holding that there was nothing defamatory in the 2021 notice expelling former AIADMK functionary V Pugalendhi from the party, the Madras High Court on Thursday set aside the defamation cases filed by him against party Coordinator O Panneerselvam and joint coordinator Palaniswami on Thursday. Accepting the arguments of senior advocates A Natarajan for Palaniswami and Vijay Narayan for Panneerselvam, Justice M Nirmal Kumar quashed Pugalendhi’s complaints seeking to punish them for offences under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC (defamation). The complaints were pending before the Special Court for Trial of Criminal Cases Related to Elected Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu.
Pugalendhi alleged that by the notice dated June 14, 2021, the duo had expelled him from the basic membership of the party. It was issued without any show cause notice. No reasons were attributed for the expulsion. The sentences asking the party cadres not to have any acquaintance with him had tarnished his image. His name and fame had gone down in the esteem of 1.5 crore party workers, amongst his friends, relatives and acquaintances. The duo, in a calculated and malicious manner, had done this, he had contended.
Turning down the plea, Justice Nirmal Kumar said that the wordings in the expulsion notice are a routine one which are verbatim repeated for years. Even for Pugalendhi, on an earlier occasion when he was expelled in December, 2017, similar notice was issued. His primary grievance appears to be that the duo had not followed the rules and regulations of the party, not issued any show cause notice calling for explanation, failed to follow the principles of natural justice and expelled him from the primary membership of the party without any valid reason. For this grievance his remedy and answer lies elsewhere and not by filing a defamation case, the judge said.
The other grievance seems to be directing the party cadres not to have any contact with the respondent which had greatly affected his reputation and he had been defamed. The expulsion letter does not contain any imputation of such nature. Further as per Explanation (4) of Section 499 IPC, the imputation must directly or indirectly in estimation of others should lower the moral or intellectual character of that person or lower the credit of that person. In this case, there is no material to show in the complaint or in the sworn statement that who are the others who questioned the respondent and thereby, he was defamed.
The petitioners being coordinator and joint coordinator had lawful authority to take disciplinary action against all in the party. The disciplinary action taken informed to the members through the media is a usual practice. The wordings in the expulsion letter are identical and same, which was issued earlier and the same is followed with regard to Pugalendhi too. “Thus, looking at the case in any angle, this Court finds that there is no material or reason to proceed against the petitioners (EPS and OPS) and continuation of the proceedings is nothing but abuse of process of law,” the judge said, quashed the cases and allowed the two criminal original petitions from the two top leaders.
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